I am delighted to tell you about a major new British television series just started on ITV 1, Food Glorious Food. If you love heritage food then this is the programme for you. Do not be swayed by the critics who have been unnecessarily harsh on what is actually a great show put together by a world-class production team (Optomen International and Syco tv). Contrary to what you may have read, the series is NOT trying to copy BBC’s Great British Bake Off neither is the aim of the show to find the next Masterchef.
On Food Glorious Food, over the coming weeks, you will see a fascinating and engaging series that brings together food and family like never before. A judging team of four passionate food experts travel the country in search of the very best home cooked recipes. Behind every treasured recipe there is an interesting back story which is often bursting with family history and nostalgia.
I can reveal to you now that one of my aforementioned ‘secret media projects’ has been my involvement with Food Glorious Food. My passion for making blancmanges, in particular using my great, great grandmother’s Wedgwood mould as well as researching the history of this long-forgotten dessert, led me to being selected to take part in the show. My judge was the delightful Tom Parker Bowles and we shared a number of interesting conversations about Mrs Beeton and other luminaries from the annals of food history.
I am also in the cookbook that accompanies the series (see below for details) and if you turn to page 86 you will find my recipe for vintage lavender and lemon blancmange which I hope you have as much fun recreating as I did experimenting with it. How far did I progress in the show? Well, I am not able to tell you that at the moment but if you tune-in to ITV 1 on Wednesday 20th March (South-East regional heat) you can watch me begin my Food Glorious Food journey. What I can tell you is that it was a jolly good adventure and has left me with many memories that I will treasure forever.
I recently launched my new website, Viva Blancmange, which celebrates retro food as well as being a platform from which I will continue my campaign to revive the blancmange. My aim is to put this long forgotten dessert back onto the British menu within the next year. (CLICK HERE). My loyal band of readers need not panic, Come Step Back in Time will continue to go from strength-to-strength (so many fabulous history articles coming-up, sadly not enough hours in the day to finishing all the writing). In the future, Come Step Back in Time will feature a lot less retro food and lifestyle articles as these will now appear on Viva Blancmange.
Food Glorious Food’s presenter is Carol Vorderman and joining her on the show’s culinary quest is food historian and writer Tom Parker Bowles, globe-trotting gastronome Loyd Grossman, Women’s Institute vice-chair Anne Harrison and baker Stacie Stewart. Each judge has their own area of interest. Stacie, owner of online company the Beehive Bakery, is on the hunt for an amazing cake or pudding that the nation will fall in love with, food writer royalty, Tom is scouring the land for a great British recipe with culinary heritage, Loyd is hunting for a new favourite to match that much-loved dish, the curry, and Anne is championing traditional home cooking. At each of the six regional heats the team of experts come armed with rosettes which they hand out to dishes that meet with their high standards.
The Food Glorious Food team has been inspired by the show to reminisce about their own childhood food experiences. Carol’s cooking career began when she was a schoolgirl, she cooked for her family, “I used to make tea every night when I was at school. My mum was working as a school secretary so I’d be home from school before her. I loved laying the table and getting everything ready.” For Carol and her family it wasn’t typical 1970s cooking the family dined out on – thanks to her Italian stepfather, “In the ‘70s it was very unusual to cook with proper Italian produce. Back then, you’d buy olive oil from the chemist to get the wax out of your ears! Parmesan cheese was dried in cardboard tubes and smelt like sick. Whereas we had the proper stuff because we used to go to Italy every year. We had canned olive oil from my stepdad’s brother’s farm, we’d bring back Parma ham that my aunties had cured then use a bacon slicer at home to cut it.”
Food historian and writer Tom is keen to find a regional recipe or traditional British dish with real history. “I’m obsessed with the history of food and I want to find a great British recipe with a fascinating culinary heritage. I was quite late to cooking. I’ve always eaten, being a greedy pig. My mum’s a good cook and my dad was a farmer but I didn’t really get into cooking myself until after university. I certainly wasn’t at my mother’s apron strings when I was growing up – I was far too lazy.”
Loyd’s a self-confessed foodie and says childhood experiences first sparked his interest, “I just loved food. I was very lucky: I travelled a lot as a kid; my parents were interested in food and restaurants so I was exposed to a lot of good food. I grew up in New England where there were both farms and fishing so I saw all the fabulous produce first-hand. I always remember how exciting it would be to go down to the harbor in the morning and see the fishermen unloading their catch.”
Anne’s foodie beginnings came from her farming background. “My parents were farmers and my father was killed in the Second World War. My mother didn’t go out to work, she and my grandmother always cooked. In those days, you didn’t go out to buy anything. I was always keen to have a go at cooking myself, I suppose I absorbed their knowledge and I’ve always been used to home cooked food. Later, I went to boarding school and excelled at what they called domestic science. That led me to teaching.”
For Stacie, a recipe with a strong family connection will also win points with her. “I like to see people cooking recipes that have been handed down through generations because that’s how I learnt to cook. Stacie’s grandmother is responsible for her passion for baking, and cooking stems from her childhood. “My mum can’t boil an egg so my nana taught me how to cook. Every Saturday without fail our mams went to bingo, our dads went to the pub, our grandad sat in the front room and watched the horse racing and my nine cousins and I were in the kitchen with our nana. It’s a great memory and, now, all my cousins cook as well as I do. I also like to see innovation, taking something you’ve been taught how to do and making it better. Just because something was done one way many years ago, it doesn’t mean that it has to be done that way now. If that were the case, we’d still be walking around like cavemen. There has to be progression. My nana used to make scones with lard and water, because that’s all she could afford. It doesn’t mean they were the best scones in the world.”
Each of the first six episodes feature a different region of the UK (South-West, South-East, North-East, London and The Midlands). The judges eat their way through plenty of pies and puds, to find six amazing recipes and contestants to take through to the semi-final stages, where two will be picked to battle it out to win a place on the shelves of Marks & Spencer and a prize fund of £20,000. The winning dish will be decided by shoppers and sold exclusively by Marks & Spencer stores across the country with 40p from each dish sold going to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The first episode aired on Wednesday 27th February, 8pm, ITV1 and will continue for a further eight episodes, culminating in The Grand Final which, at the time of writing this article, is due to be aired on Wednesday 24th April. If you missed the first episode, then it is now available to view on itvPlayer. The series continues on Wednesday 6th March, 8pm, ITV1.
Out now, to accompany the series, is a superb anthology, published by Mitchell Beazley, containing some of the best recipes featured in the programme. Divided into regions, it is full of delicious dishes for you to try as well as information about the dish’s creator. All the finalists’ dishes and the winning recipe are included. Old favourites like Bread and Butter Pudding, Cornish Pasties and Bakewell Tart feature alongside new and inventive fusions of flavours that simply have to be tasted. Some dishes will incorporate quirky twists – for example, an extra ingredient that was originally added by chance – while others will stick to time-honoured techniques handed down through multiple generations of the same family.
Some of my favourite dishes in this beautifully illustrated cookbook include:
- a secret recipe Devon apple cider cake (p.52). In 1983 Sandy Gilbert brought a former bakery with her husband and as part of the deeds they were required to buy this recipe along with the property;
- bonfire stew with cannonball dumplings. Publican Tony Leonard cooks this dish with the South Street Bonfire Society every year and serves it in his pub, The Snowdrop Inn, Lewes, East Sussex, at the start of the Lewes annual bonfire night on November 5th (p.70);
- Henry’s Malay jungle curry (p.84). Rachel Kelly’s father learned to make this dish when he was in the army in Malaya in the 1950s, do also check-out Rachel’s excellent food blog Marmaduke Scarlet it is packed full of great recipes and food photography;
- Laura’s fiery ginger cake (p.94). I can vouch for the fact that Laura Wiles’ cake is delicious. My husband and I tried it at the South-East regional heat in Brighton;
- Nettle cake (p.139). Marcelle Burden’s cake comes from her French grandmother, who used all sorts of wild plants in her cooking;
As well as the featured recipes, there are thoughtful reflections on Britain’s food heritage and the nation’s love affair with home cooking. This is the definitive guide to the nation’s best recipes, written for the people of Great Britain, by the people of Great Britain.